Where does HR stand when disaster strikes?

Australia is known around the world as the lucky country, but we’re also home to some extreme weather events. What are your employer rights when disaster strikes?

Where does HR stand when disaster strikes?

From floods to fires, Australia is no stranger to extreme weather events. The Fair Work Ombudsman has this week released updated information around entitlements during extreme weather events and natural disasters.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said the Fair Work Act 2009 does not have specific leave entitlements for employees who can’t go to work due to natural disasters; however, employees may have entitlements under their award or agreement. “If there are no provisions in the award or agreement, the employer can approve leave at his or her discretion. For example, an employer can agree that the employee takes paid or unpaid personal or annual leave,” Wilson said. Additionally, employers might be able to stand down employees without pay if they can’t open their business because of the extreme weather.

“Under the Fair Work Act 2009, employers can stand down employees without pay in certain circumstances,” he said. This includes where they can’t usefully be employed during a period because of any stoppage of work for which the employer cannot reasonably be held responsible, such as a natural disaster. “This only applies when the employee's award or agreement doesn’t have its own stand down provision. Employers and employees should check their award or agreement to see if it has any stand down provisions,” Wilson added.

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